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Album Review: Broken Water - Tempest

14 June 2012 | 9:55 am | Howie Tanks

Tempest offers ten tracks of inimitable rawness and surprising beauty, to be played at maximum volume.

Ever since Glenn Branca and his merry men (including a very young Lee Ranaldo) created The Ascension in 1981, the no-wave noise rock movement has known no bounds. The band at the forefront of this sound is one that Ranaldo would go on to be a part of, Sonic Youth, but there have been 1000s of imitators attempting to harness the lightning-in-a-bottle mixture of serrated distortion, off-kilter pop aesthetics, aberrant aggression and high-end audacity, with varying results. Other bands merely aped the sound and made it their own, and whilst Blonde Redhead has moved off into other sonic realms, Washington trio Broken Water continue digging for fire on sophomore album Tempest – and come up with some burning gems. 

Opening number Drown is representative – droning, chugging guitars that erupt into walls of noise, whilst drummer Kanako Pooknyw's vocals are relatively indiscernible, remaining subdued for the most part. She shares vocal duties with guitarist Jon Hanna, which again throws up the Sonic Youth signals, especially on Coming Down and Paranoid where Thurston Moore comparisons are inevitable. Hulking juggernaut Underground owes as much to Kurt Cobain as it does to Moore, whilst the slow dirge of River Under The River is haunting even as it bludgeons. Chantal Sezer breaks out of tradition (but not noise levels) offering a languorous pop malaise like a shoegaze ballad being played in a vat of molasses. Closing track When You Said even opens with some elegant acoustic strumming before all hell breaks loose once more.

Tempest isn't breaking new boundaries, yet that clearly isn't the purpose. Instead, it offers ten tracks of inimitable rawness and surprising beauty, to be played at maximum volume.